What Differentiates a Master’s Degree in Leadership from an MBA?
By John Gallo, MS, MBA
Dean of Adult and Online Programs
Geneva College currently offers two fully online graduate degrees: a Master of Science in Leadership Studies (MSLS) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). One of the questions I often get by prospective students is: what is the difference between the two? I feel I am probably in a good position to answer that question because I actually have both degrees! Because of this, let me take a moment to explain what the primary differences are between the two.
Leadership vs. Management
First, understand that there is a basic difference between the terms “leadership” and “management”. Newspaper articles and books often use the terms interchangeably, but the difference between those two terms gets at the heart of the difference between the two programs.
At its foundational level, management is about the organization and distribution of raw materials and resources in a company. This can include people (as they are the most valuable resource), but it also includes other raw materials like finances, organizational processes, procedures, and operations. Consequently, MBA students at Geneva will take classes in HR (understanding people), statistics, accounting, and finances (understanding financial resources), business law (understanding principles that govern an organization and the regulatory environment), and more.
Conversely, a leadership studies degree focuses primarily on the people of the organization and the skills a leader needs to mobilize and maximize their effectiveness. Thus, leadership students will study things like motivation, teamwork, organizational and strategic planning, and more. MSLS focuses on the soft skills that leaders need to engage employees, assemble them into teams, and help them grow professionally.
Now, this is a bit of a simplification. It would be unfair to say that MBA graduates don’t care about being good leaders or don’t care about empowering employees. They do. Likewise, it would be unfair to say that MSLS graduates don’t care about being good stewards of the organization’s resources or are unconcerned with profitability of the company. They are. My point here is to show the main focus of each program using broad brushstrokes.
Whatever program you may choose to study: MBA or MSLS, you can be assured that you will receive a quality education at Geneva rooted in a Christian faith that brings biblical principles to your discipline, making you a well rounded and spiritually grounded leader of the 21st century!
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